My Brother Zach Got Arrested and I Watched the Twitter Video
While getting ready to open a beer last Friday evening at Susan’s house, there came a buzz from my left front pocket.
It was my brother, Zach, FaceTiming me.
I answered the call and was immediately met by hundreds of faces and backs of heads.
He was in the middle of a march in Detroit. A march against racism, against racist police practices, and against the gassing and mistreatment of peaceful protestors.
This was only a few days after he’d been uppercut twice in the face with a riot-shield then had his hands zip-tied together.
But, let’s take a moment and go back.
His journey started on Monday.
“The day Donald Trump had the peaceful protestors gassed so that he could take the picture at that church,” as Zach recalled.
That’s when he knew there wasn’t a chance in hell that he wouldn’t be going out to protest.
The group started at 3rd and Michigan, in Detroit on Tuesday. The day after Trump’s photo op. They were at the police headquarters.
There were a few obvious leaders of the protest, but as a group they decided to start marching Gratiot, up the east side of the city.
A collective conscious told them that since they’d gone through the southwest quadrant of downtown the day before, it was important to spread where they were going, as to not beat a dead horse.
On Gratiot, they reached a turn that would lead down Mack. Once there, the group paused so that everyone could catch up, and to have another discussion. Continue up Gratiot and end up in the neighborhoods, or go down Mack and divert from the current course.
The leaders of the group, whom my brother referred to as Tristan and Nakia, made the call to go up through the more populated area, which is Mack.
But when they were a couple hundred yards gone, they noticed that the group had split. One other protester, “a usurper really” had gotten the group to split and dwindle in number by continuing on Gratiot.
Tristan and Nakia put a hold on the main group and tried to rally everyone back together again; knowing that they’re safer with numbers.
As the group furthered up Mack, more people continued to join. At peak, there were around 500 protesters.
Before they’d started to move, earlier in the day, it was made sure that everyone called out the 8:00 PM curfew.
“Saturday, Sunday and Monday all ended in police brutality,” Zach said. “Everyone getting shot with rubber bullets.”
When 7:30 rolled around, the group was a few miles out from downtown, and decided to pause again to give everyone that didn’t want to break curfew a chance to get to their cars.
They’d gone from their 500 protestors to about 150 in a matter of minutes.
“Power to you for coming out all at,” Zach remarked. “You did what we needed you to do.”
At around 7:50 he started thinking “well, what’s gonna happen now?”
8:00 rolled around and the group could see some lights in the distance behind them.
“Even during the pandemic, Gratiot is a pretty populated street. And we had all the traffic stopped.” That meaning, they had plenty of time before the cops arrived.
“Up unto and including that point, I had my bike,’ he said. “I texted Eddie,” a friend of his that lives close to him in Detroit, “I’m staying past curfew” his text read,” I’m protesting the curfew.”
Eddie got back to him pretty quickly, agreeing to come get Zach’s bike, and stay close in case anything happens.
“We kept walking,” it was 8:30 at this point and they started to notice it wasn’t just some police officers. It looked like a military team.
Over the loudspeakers the protest started to hear “you are now in violation of the curfew. This is an unlawful gathering. Please disperse.”
“We looked around and there was no escape, “ Zach said. “There were police in riot gear closing in on all four sides.”
The DPD has since said that had people tried to disperse, they would have let them. But the protesters knew better. They knew that, in that moment, there wasn’t going to be any dismissal.
Zach’s phone pinged. A text from Eddie. “They’re flanking you from your right.”
Military terminology, “because that’s what it fucking looked like.”
“I was facing back towards the city.” Zach said. “That’s where I saw the tanks. And a line of riot shields.”
A chant started. We won’t back down to bullies with shields.
Over the loudspeaker, the force was instructed to slowly move forward while banging their shields. “We weren’t more intimidated because they were making noise,” he laughed. “They were just being bullies.”
“There was one guy that wasn’t shoulder to shoulder. I reached out to grab him, to pull him into the circle to keep him safe, but as my arm was outstretched for him; a cop got to him and just pounded him to the ground.”
“Then it happened to another girl.”
“I moved my hands from above my head to having them in the shape of a heart over my chest, in the officers face.”
“Then I got an uppercut to the face by a shield. Twice.”
The moment the cops rushed, a member of the media known on Twitter as @MCmuckraker was off on the sideline, capturing the chaos. You can see the cops rush in on the peaceful group. My brother is right of the frame, in long yellow pants, a facemask, and a pair of goggles, heart on chest.
You can watch the video here.
After the member of the media got pummeled too, and the video turned off, the cops started screaming. “Get down! Get on the ground!”
“So we all just got down; just laid down on the cement. Bodies on top of each other, and police walking on top of us.”
There were more police than protestors.
With half of his body being crushed by another protestor, an officer started to pull him out of the pile, attempting to drag him down the pavement. “I was stuck,” Zach said. So the cop was just pulling at his shoulders.
Eventually he let him stand up on his own, but as soon as he did, his hands got zip-tied together.
They had him sit on a curb for a while, and there were two other girls right next to him. “The girl on my left was freaking out. I kept telling her that it was going to be alright. The one on my right had gotten pepper sprayed in the face, after a cop pulled her mask down.”
After that, they started loading everyone onto the busses. Once they were in there, the police stopped to take a picture of themselves kneeling in front of the bus; with forty protesters in it.
Making a mockery of peace.
People weren’t doing well. Though the DPD claimed that there wasn’t “supposed to be any chemical irritant deployed” other than pepper spray, it was clear that tear gas had been thrown. Eventually the chief stated “some may have been deployed accidentally.”
The guy sitting next to my brother had blood pouring down his face, others had their hands turning purple from how tight the zip-ties were.
One was so tight that the leading officer couldn’t even get scissors underneath them to cut them off.
“She started to play victim,” Zach said. “How she might hurt herself by uncuffing him. She was cracking jokes.”
At this point, members of the National Lawyers Guild, who’d been marching with the protesters all week, were holding up some recording devices to the windows of the bus. They asked for names and dates of birth so that they could help bail out the protesters later.
“Their number was spread to everyone before the march started, just in case,” Zach said. “I had it written on my arm, so if I got arrested I could call them.”
The busses started to move.
Zach managed to get his phone out of his pocket, and had a text from Eddie waiting for him. “I’m guessing you’re on that bus?”
Zach asked Eddie to relay a message to his girlfriend that he’d be alright.
The protesters got taken to Little Ceaser Arena. The busses had been split up to male and female, and the girls were already there waiting; seated, still with their hands tied, on the ground of the parking garage.
According to an article from Crain’s Detroit, back in 2017 the LCA was undergoing a construction project that cost $862.9 million, with an up-front public cost, so far, of $324.1 million. That’s taxpayer money.
A building that’s supposed to be for entertainment for the city of Detroit, and those that come to visit, was turned into a holding and processing garage for the DPD.
It was close to 10:00 PM at this point, and the guys were kept on the bus for over a half an hour, and it was hot.
“You guys would be cooler if you stopped talking,” one officer said.
Eventually, they were let off the bus “and it was kind of a shit show.” No one was getting any information.
“Then they started processing us, one by one.” Zach said. “They wrote me a ticket for loitering and not complying with lawful police order.”
“The officer who wrote my ticket was having a great time with our last name. Under normal circumstances I might’ve thought it was funny.”
Mabey isn’t that hard to joke with, so I don’t give him any credit on humor.
After everyone got clocked, they were loaded back up, and taken to Mound.
The officer who worked at that precinct came out and gave warning as to what would happen if they got arrested again. First it’d be an overnight process in the jail, then they’d get sent to county.
It was 11:40 now, and everyone was finally getting to take their cuffs off.
On Wednesday, the curfew was changed to “discretionary.” Which means that when there is only around 100 protesters, the cops can feel free to continue to be overly-aggressive, but if there’s 400 they can “choose not to,” which we all know just means that they know they wouldn’t win in that fight.
The DPD called it a “victory for the police.”
The police chief has since said that the violence before the arrests were started by outside agitators. “While it’s true there were lots of people from metro Detroit, it’s NOT true that they were the ones starting violence,” Zach said in response to that.
When I asked my brother if he’d be willing to put this story out there, he wasn’t sure. He didn’t know if it was smart to put his face up. But then he realized that he had been. He’s protesting. He’s posting online. He’s fighting.
Why get arrested if I don’t tell how it happened, he thought.
He got a text from his friend Matt around the same time.
Minneapolis has committed to defunding their police department.
Confederate statues are being toppled across the country.
New York City’s planning reforms.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to hear,” he said.
Now it’s our turn.
Today after eleven days of marching, Detroit protesters, fronted by Tristan and Nakia, presented a list of demands to Detroit Mayor Mike Dugan.
Justice for George Floyd. Justice for Detroit.